When Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood: Forest Service Professionals Tips

Wood is a great building material and inexpensive. It is easy to work with due to its lightweight and strength. But it has to be treated against organisms that expose it to decay.

Pressure-treated wood is best used in construction. This is due to its durability and resistance to decay. The wood is less susceptible to mold, insect infestation, and water damage.

When can you paint pressure-treated wood? The best time to paint pressure treated wood is when it is dried up and completely cured. Evaluate the moisture content of the wood before painting. This will give the wood a long-lasting and perfect-looking finish.

According to a USDA forest service study, effective surface preparation of pressure-treated wood determines how well the paint adheres to the wood.

Allow the pressure-treated wood to dry naturally. This allows the chemicals to make their way back to the wood surface. Carpenters refer to this process as ‘shop dry.’

On average, it may take 2-3 weeks for pressure-treated wood to dry before painting. But several factors affect the duration taken to dry. They include;

  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Exposure to heat
  • Damp and dark environments may prolong the time expected for the treated wood to dry.

What Is Pressure Treated Wood?

Treated wood refers to wood that has undergone a chemical preservative process. The wood is fed with waterborne preservatives contained in a pressurized cylinder.

The chemical preservatives are pumped to the core of the lumber. They have to reach the cellular structure of the wood. It is a measure of preventing fungi infestation.

According to W.C. Feist, an American painting contractor, pressure treatment on wood provides durable protection against decay.

Step by Step Guide on How Pressure Treated Wood Is Made

  • The wood is placed in a pressurized cylinder.
  • A vacuum removes air from the cylinder and the wood’s cell structure.
  • The cylinder is filled with chemicals under 160 pressure pounds.
  • The treatment chemicals are then extracted from the cell structure of the wood.
  • The wood is placed on a drip pad to cure and dry. The amount of time taken to dry depends on exposure to sunlight and the climate of the region.
  • The wood is then transported to the supplier/client upon or before curing and drying. It depends on the treatment plant.

Check the moisture content of the wood. It would help if you only considered painting or staining the pressure-treated wood after drying.

Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

It is 100% okay to paint pressure-treated wood, but only after it is dry. The treated wood you purchase from the supply may either be wet or dry.

In most cases, shipping of treated wood occurs while it’s still wet. The chemical preservative used to treat the wood is yet to leave the cellular structure of the wood.

Give the wood enough time to dry naturally. Wait until the chemical preservative appears on the wood surface.

Types Of Pressure Treated Wood

There are many types of pressure-treated wood that are used for different purposes. It is important to understand the nature of your project before settling on a choice.

  • Copper Azole (CA) Treated Wood

Copper Azole treated wood is infused with copper-based preservatives. The preservatives give the wood long-lasting resistance against rot, decay, and termites.

The wood is greenish-brown in color and contains little to no odor. It is best for above, on-ground, and underwater uses.

The longevity of the Copper Azole treated wood makes it suitable for residential projects. Examples include; decks, gazebos, access lamps, and fences.

Avoid using the Ensure to paint it when it is dry to enhance its effectiveness.

  • PYRO-GUARD® Treated Wood

PYRO-GUARD wood is an interior-fire-treated wood that is safe for a variety of uses. Pyro-Guard is infused deep into the wood for permanent protection against fire.

Pyro-Guard wood is best for enclosed structural uses such as;

  • Roof trusses
  • Stages
  • Stairways
  • Shelves
  • Plywood subfloors
  • Electrical panels
  • Rafters
  • Partition walls

There are thousands of other uses of Pyro-guard. Only ensure that it is dry before painting it to your desired color.

  • Exterior Fire-X (XFM) Wood and Plywood

Exterior Fire-X treated wood is treated to provide comprehensive protection against fire. It is best used in outdoor projects exposed to hot weather.

You may also use the wood in a humid environment, such as indoors.

  • CCA Rot and Decay Resistant-Treated Wood (Plywood)

The plywood is greenish in color because of treatment with chromated copper arsenate (CCA). It provides long-term resistance against termites, decay, and rot.

There are different types of treated wood. Always check with your carpenter the best wood to use for your project.

As a carpenter, it is important to understand the dynamics of treated wood to avoid misleading clients.

Always let the client know the condition of the wood before purchase. If the wood is yet to dry, explain why they should wait for it to dry and how they should paint it.

Painting pressure-treated wood too soon may lead to frustrating results.

How Do You Know When Pressure Treated Wood Is Ready to Paint?

Pressure-treated wood is ready to paint when it is dry. The big question is; how do you know when pressure-treated wood is dry?

Knowing when to paint pressure-treated wood is vital in any construction project. It determines the durability of the wood and the construction work in general.

Water is used to impregnate the wood fibers with chemicals. The wood leaves the pressure chamber with a lot of moisture content.

After treating the wood with pressure, the moisture gets trapped in the wood for a long time. It is difficult to work with moist wood as it may shrink or bend during the drying process.

How to Tell When Treated Wood Is Ready to Paint

You can use different ways to tell when the treated wood is dry and ready to paint. They include;

  1. Touching the Pressure Treated Wood to Determine Whether It Is Dry

Use your hand or paper towel to press into the wood. If you notice any moisture, the wood is still wet. The wood may feel like a sponge since it is highly absorbent.

Touching the treated wood is only good for determining the presence of moisture. It is not sufficient for detecting whether the wood is 100% dry and ready to paint.

  1. Sprinkling Water on Pressure Treated Wood to Test Its Dryness

Sprinkle a little amount of water on the treated wood surface and wait for the reaction. If the water soaks into the wood, the answer is that the wood is dry for painting.

If the water beads up on the wood surface, the wood still contains moisture. Leave the wood to dry for a longer period and test it again before painting.

  1. Using a Digital Moisture Meter to Test Whether the Wood Is Ready for Painting

A digital moisture meter contains two prongs. Ensure that the device is properly calibrated before use.

Press the prongs into the pressure-treated wood to test the moisture content. Ensure the readings are within the accepted percentage depending on the construction purpose.

Here is a quick video breakdown of the process listed above as used by a carpenter and the step-by-step processes he follows.

Factors That Determine Dryness of Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood takes an average of 2-3 weeks to dry. But this period may vary depending on different factors. They include;

  1. The Time When the Wood Was Treated Determines Its Readiness to Paint

As mentioned earlier, pressure-treated wood is shipped when it is still wet. Confirm with the lumber yard owner when the wood arrived.

Request for wood that has been in the lumber yard for more than a month. It is safer to work with wood that has been at the stores long enough. The wood is drier than the newly stocked bundles.

  1. The Storage Environment Determines How Long the Wood Takes to Dry

Lumberyard owners understand the importance of storing treated wood in an open place. Exposure to sunlight helps the wood to dry faster.

Pressure-treated wood takes a long time to dry when stored in cool and dark places. Besides, the wood may be affected by mildew.

Avoid exposing pressure-treated wood to too much heat as it may lead to warping, which leads to losses.

  1. The Thickness of the Pressure Treated Wood Affects the Time It Takes to Dry

Thin pressure-treated wood such as plywood takes a considerably short time to dry. Thicker pieces of wood take a longer time to dry and may not be ready for painting soon enough.

  1. The Type of Treatment Used on Wood Affects the Time It Takes to Dry

Not all pressure-treated wood is shipped to the manufacturer when it is still wet. There are times when it is kiln dried to bake the moisture out of the wood before shipping.

Kiln-drying should occur in a controlled environment. It exposes the wood to a high amount of heat. The controlled environment minimizes the risk of warping.

The Chart below Analysis Tips for Painting Pressure Treated Wood That across Various Reputable Forums:

Tips for painting pressure treated wood Percentage of total results
Clean the pressure-treated wood thoroughly with a preferred deck cleaner, otherwise, various issues can ensue as a consequence.10%
One tip that popped up multiple times when asked about painting pressure-washed treated wood was to make sure to use two thorough coats of your preferred paint.15%
Multiple forum users noted that making sure that your pressure treated wood is dry is extremely important and can be drowned out most times taking multiple months.25%
Make sure to avoid direct sunlight and hot days when applying any chemical agent to your pressure treated wood, otherwise, your product can dry before adhesion takes place.10%
A few users recommended considering purchasing a moister meter reader to determine the moisture levels of your pressure-treated wood more accurately, and only paint below 12%.15%
Research on exactly the primer, paint, type of wood, and condition of pressure-treated wood that you’ll be using:20%
Be cognizant of the amount of PSI that is used when the pressure-treated wood is power-washed, to avoid damage to the wood.5%
Data derived from multiple Wood-care forums online

What Happens If You Paint Pressure Treated Wood Too Soon?

Painting pressure-treated wood too soon affects the durability of the paint. The paint fails to adhere to the wood surface and starts to peel.

The chemicals and moisture leaving the wood as it dries lift the paint from the wood. They do so as they make their way to the wood surface.

You have to repaint the wood, which might end up being a lot of work. Repainting will cost you valuable time and money.

How To Paint Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood has a greenish color which can be unattractive. The solution to the problem is applying paint on the wood to achieve the theme color of your project.

Painting pressure-treated wood should be a zero-risk process if the wood is dry. This plays a significant role in the application process as well as on the finished look.

In addition, painting pressure-treated wood enhances its longevity. The secret lies in knowing how to paint the pressure-treated wood.

  1. Clean The Pressure Treated Wood to Remove Dirt

Use soap and water to wash away dirt from the pressure-treated wood. Rinse the soap and dry the wood out with a rag.

Carry out deep cleaning by sing commercial wood cleaners and power washers. This applies to wood that looks damaged.

  1. Dry Out the Pressure Treated Wood and Measure the Moisture Content

Allow the wood to dry before introducing paint on its surface. Measure the moisture content of the wood to ensure it is completely dry.

Follow the instructions outlined earlier, from the topic How to Tell When Pressure Treated Wood Is Ready to Paint. Use either of the methods to test whether the wood is dry.

  1. Apply Primer on the Pressure Treated Wood and Let It Cure

The best primer to use is latex primer. Apply it on dry wood and leave it to cure in a clean environment. It should be free from dust or dirt debris.

  1. Apply Paint on The Pressure Treated Wood

Apply the first coat of exterior latex paint on the wood. Allow it to dry as per the manufacturer’s specification before applying a second coat. It takes only a few hours to dry for most paints.

Is It Better to Paint or Stain Pressure Treated Wood?

Staining or painting pressure-treated wood depends on the finished look you want. Painting pressure-treated wood requires more preparation compared to staining.

Stain soaks deep into the wood and is easy to apply compared to paint. However, while paint fills in the cracks on the wood, the stain will not fill the crack. It does not provide the perfect finish.

Stain limits you on the color options to choose. Stain only limits you to shades of brown. You have many selections of dull and bright colors.

If you choose to stain your pressure-treated wood, the best is an oil-based stain. According to Jeff Layton, a contractor and deck specialist, oil-based stains last longer than water-based stains. One such choice can be found from WOCA Denmark, which can be found on Amazon. Take a look here, for more information on this high-quality deep penetrating formula.

What Is the Best Paint for Pressure Treated Wood

The only type of paint that is perfect for pressure-treated wood is exterior latex paint. It is a water-based paint that guarantees you durability and a perfect finish.

You may consider using interior latex paint. A great choice for your painting needs can be found by Montage Signature Paint. You can find more about Amazon, here. Like that from This is if you will apply the pressure-treated wood indoors. Ensure that you use a compatible latex primer before applying the paint.

Final Thoughts

It is safe to paint pressure-treated wood for above-ground, on-ground, or underwater use. Ensure that the wood is dry to allow the paint to adhere to the surface of the wood.

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Aron Blake

I am the lead copywriter on Homezesty and the Webmaster. I have a lot of experience in home renovations and the creation of style. I enjoy writing and sharing my tips on how to create the best living environment. My Linkedin Profile, My Twitter Account

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